Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our attempt to make some sense of the 2010-11 season. Sit back. Relax. Grab some popcorn. Get your read on. Today: Jeremiah Rivers.
Final Stats (32 games): 3.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.1 spg, 45.8% FG, 75.0% FT in 22.4 minutes per game
Raise your hand if you had Jeremiah Rivers getting 19 starts during his final season in Bloomington. All of you with your hands up, put them down. You’re lying.
While many wrote Rivers off as an afterthought following a frustrating junior season where he was given the keys to run the IU offense, the senior from Winter Park, Florida bounced back and went out on a high note.
Rather than accepting a role coming off the bench, which is how he started the year, Rivers worked hard and earned his way back into the starting lineup. It was probably lost in the shuffle to the casual observer, but the maturity shown by Rivers and his improvement as the season moved along was a bright spot on this team.
Although his scoring, rebounding and assist averages were down due to a decrease in minutes, his field-goal percentage improved (from 40.4 percent as a junior to 45.8 percent as a senior) as did his free throw percentage (from 57.8 percent as a junior to 75 percent as a senior). The lift in both categories was significant given the limits of Rivers’ offensive game.
Indiana coach Tom Crean, sophomore Jordan Hulls, senior Jeremiah Rivers and sophomore Christian Watford met with the media following the Hoosiers’ season-ending 61-55 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament.
COACH CREAN: I thought our guys played with tremendous heart, discipline, toughness, and they left it out there, and I think that’s what’s most important. Penn State did, as well. And we knew that’s the kind of effort we were going to need to play against them, and obviously they felt the same way. It was a hard-fought game, and we didn’t shoot the ball great. We didn’t rebound the ball nearly as well in the second half. But we still played at a very high level of competitiveness.
When we play that way, we have capabilities. We’ve done that certainly at times this year, and when we have, we’ve been successful. Tonight we weren’t successful obviously with the win, but our guys have a mindset that’s growing, and I’m proud of what they did, and that’s where I’m at.
Q. Jordan, starting the game out, Penn State on a pretty good opening the game up, you knocked down a couple shots yourself and you had a three and then that stretch, Victor off the bench, what did he bring to the team, no doubt a lot of energy?
JORDAN HULLS: Yeah, Victor no doubt brought a lot of energy on offensive rebounds. I don’t know how many he had, but he definitely brought that to our team, which we needed. But there in the first half, we cut it to — or they got it up one to end the half, so that was tough for us. But like I said, Victor just played great for us today.
Q. Jeremiah, more so just your journey now, your final game. Talk about the last three years at Indiana and what your emotions are like right now knowing this is your final game?
JEREMIAH RIVERS: Yeah, it has been a journey. I mean, two years at Georgetown, two good years at Georgetown, three good years here really. Honestly, I’ve created such a strong bond with my teammates. Like I told them in the locker room after the game, this is my family and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This was the best experience of my life. I’ve grown so much as a man and as a person and seeing these guys grow and getting better and better and moving forward, it was a blessing, and I thank them for having my back all the time.
The waters have begun to settle around the Big Ten contenders and pretenders, both in terms of conference title credentials and NCAA aspirations.
Michigan might have played its way in down the stretch if not for a trademark Wisconsin bank shot to win at the buzzer. Illinois and Michigan State stand on precarious ground, but could be in with strong respective finishes. Penn State is almost surely out, and poor Minnesota — for whom nothing ever seems to go as planned — is probably done as well. *sigh Tubby Smith*
So let’s rock and roll:
Inside the Hall Big Ten power rankings: Week 10
I Think This is the Final Stop at No. 11. Indiana – NR; 12-17, 3-13; 33 total points
It’s easy to tell where things have gone wrong for the Hoosiers after an impressive run of play in the middle of the conference schedule. The problem is simply that it would take too much time. The incessant fouling is one glaring problem. That’s a good start, but it’s hardly the end of the list of this team’s flaws as currently constituted.
It’s The Same Old Song At No. 10: Iowa – NR; 10-18, 3-13; 30 total points
There’s definitely a case to be made for a brighter future in Iowa City. We just can’t really make it right now. Fear not, Hawkeyes fans: Spring football begins soon. But then maybe that’s not exactly the most exciting proposition either.
Still On the NIT Bubble at No. 9. Northwestern – NR; 16-12, 6-1; 27 total points
It always comes back around to this for Northwestern, doesn’t it? Bill Carmody’s Big Ten finishes: 11th, seventh, 10th, tied for fifth, eighth, tied for eighth, 10th, 11th, ninth, seventh, which comes to an average of right around 8.5. So this seems about average.
BLOOMINGTON — There’s a potentially intriguing confluence of surface trends and storylines converging for tomorrow night’s Indiana-Purdue rivalry, this time renewed in Bloomington.
On one side, Indiana comes into the game having lost its last four games, with three of those coming against the other three teams in the bottom four of the Big Ten (Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern). Their last loss, at the hands of the Wildcats at home Saturday, was so disappointing that coach Tom Crean called a 7:30 a.m. Sunday practice.
But given that Christian Watford is healthy again — he sat out with his wrist injury the last time these teams met — the Hoosiers do offer a wrinkle Purdue didn’t have to contend with last time.
Purdue, by contrast, rides in at its season’s high-water mark, having defeated Wisconsin and Ohio State at home last week and moved firmly into the nation’s top 10. E’Twaun Moore scored 38 points in a magnificent effort against Ohio State on Sunday.
So whether practically or on paper, Wednesday will be an uphill climb for Indiana.
BLOOMINGTON — There’s this team I cover, and they do the damndest stuff.
See, they lose to a team that is, statistically, one of the worst they’ll play this season. Lose, hell, they get walked on, tooled against the worst team in their conference.
And then they come home, lick their wounds, and beat one of the three most-disliked opponents on their schedule. And they pick up their first win over a ranked team in about 35 months.
They take this crew that’s probably going to the NCAA Tournament and they work them over. Jeremiah Rivers, the team’s lone senior, goes absolutely lockdown on one of the Big Ten’s best point guards, forcing a young man that had made beating Indiana his own personal sport in the past to look remarkably mediocre.
Demetri McCamey was an Indiana killer, the kind who played like a guy with a giant chip on his shoulder against the team that he once might have joined. He scored 31 points against them in a loss his freshman year, and 19 in each contest – including a game-winner in Champaign – last season.
Thursday night, Jeremiah Rivers shut him down. I believe the phrase is “beat him like he stole something,” proverbially speaking, of course. McCamey finished with six points and five turnovers, and was absolutely absent when his team needed him most.
“He’s their catalyst, so he makes them go,” said Christian Watford, who finished with 16 points. “And when he’s not going, they all look a little stagnant.”
There’s evidence to support that theory. For the game, Indiana allowed just one Illinois player – forward Mike Davis – to score in double figures, after letting four Iowa Hawkeyes into double digits five days prior.
Tom Pritchard (Tom Pritchard!) hit a game-winning shot. Let that sink in, and I believe you’ll begin coming around to my point.
BLOOMINGTON — Execution is the common theme that runs through all of basketball. Everything a team wants to do, every goal it wants to achieve, however small or large, specific or grandiose, will be determined by its ability to execute.
Throughout the build-up to this season, defense was the word on the lips of everyone inside the Indiana program. It was, they said, the primary focus of the Hoosiers’ offseason work, and the peg upon which they would hang their basketballing hat this winter, a prediction that played out favorably until tougher opponents started appearing on the schedule.
Over their recent four-game losing streak, the Hoosiers were allowing a rather putrid 76.5 points per contest. And to skirt the border of an awful cliche, their worst was last — a 93-81 loss at Northwestern, during which the Wildcats tortured Indiana in transition and in the halfcourt in almost equal measure.
Saturday night could not have been more different.
From Michigan’s very first possession, Indiana’s gameplan against Michigan was laid clear — take away Darius Morris’ ability to drive his right and close down his options on the kickout, primarily Zack Novak. That plan was executed (buzz word) precisely.
Verdell Jones, playing straight up for much of the game on Morris, played him hard to the Michigan guard’s right, practically inviting him to drive to the left. It was an invitation Morris rarely accepted. When he did, he looked uncomfortable, and on the drives that made it to the basket, he still switched to his right hand to try a layup, costing him at least one bucket.
Novak was so far removed from the game it was hard to tell when he was on the floor. The sharpshooter hit a barren 2-of-6 from the field, and 1-of-5 from behind the arc. Jeremiah Rivers in particular shadowed the junior from Chesterton to fine effect, closing him out of a first half that ended with Michigan having scored just 15 points, the lowest halftime total for an Big Ten opponent since 2002.
BLOOMINGTON — Transition defense was the hot topic Friday afternoon during media availability at Assembly Hall. Tom Crean called Michigan “the best transition basketball team in the Big Ten,” and Jeremiah Rivers said he and his teammates have spent a large portion of the week working to improve in defending against points on the break.
Defending in transition has been a problem for Indiana this season, in large part due to Indiana’s struggles with talking and on-court communication. That, in turn, has created problems when shooters come free on the break and aren’t picked up, John Shurna’s ability to shake loose for open shots Sunday in the Hoosiers’ 93-81 loss at Northwestern being a recent example.
Rivers was particularly adamant about the importance of communication against a team that has shot more 3-pointers than any other in the Big Ten:
“Being quiet out there doesn’t help at all. I think being quiet out there gives us inconsistency because you don’t know if your man has your back, you don’t know, if you get beat off the dribble – which will happen in games – if the next player’s gonna step out and help you. So I think all week, that’s all we’ve been doing, or one of the main things we’ve been doing on defense is helping each other on defense. So I think it’s been real good.”
Michigan will provide an excellent case study into how productive Indiana’s week has been. The Wolverines are trigger happy, as are most John Beilein-coached teams, but they’ve got several pieces that cause problems, foremost among them Darius Morris.
The sophomore is enjoying a breakout season, averaging 15.4 points, 7.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. He has been the conduit through which much of the Wolverines’ offense has run, both in scoring and in creating for others.
“Well he’s the new Manny Harris in the sense that he attacks, creates for others, he can get to the rim really well and the ball is gonna be in his hands when it’s winning time,” Crean said. “He does a good job of finding shooters if they’re open, like Zach Novak, Stu Douglass, Tim Hardaway Jr., and he’s playing like a floor leader for them.”
The others for which Morris likes to create include sharpshooters Zach Novak and Stu Douglass, who both shoot north of 38 percent from 3-point range and average 9.2 and 7.4 points per game, respectively. Novak in particular was a player Rivers termed the Wolverines’ “x-factor” in terms of scoring, and keeping both him and Morris from finding an early rhythm could go a long way for Indiana.